Our earliest painful memories in childhood often influence the way we look at injustices and pain as adults.  When I was 10 years old, my dog became lost. In those days, our pets roamed the neighborhoods so we had a great expanse to cover in order to find her. All I could do or think about was to find our dog.  We looked in all the familiar places that she would like to sleep and places she would retreat to when too many of us kids were around!  But all our efforts brought empty and extremely sad results.

That feeling I carried for many years. I kept thinking of how scared and afraid my dog must have been. Now, as a seasoned adult that same emotion resurfaces when I hear about lost children, taken children or rejected children. Psychologists have discovered that one of a tween’s greatest fears is: “What if I do not find friends; what if no one likes me. It is like I would be lost.” That is a huge red flag for those of us with tween’s. Just think of how we can be used of God to help our child make and keep friends; friends that he/she will remember with good memories.

Friendships (social relationships) are the core of the human experience here on earth. Tween’s need healthy friendships as they move out of childhood and into the teenage years! How easily do our tween’s make friends? How can our tween’s find the tools to be a friend, receive friendship, and still be the individual God created? Some healthy strategies below give us comfort as we let God direct our path to help our tween’s.

TAKE TIME TO DISCUSS with your tween that making friends takes some work. Teaching God’s principals of other-oriented actions is a sure way to help them see the fruit of nurturing friendships. Reminding our children that prayer is the beginning. Pray together with your tween for a friend to come into your school or group. Together show your tween the 9 fruits of the Spirit. Each one of those virtues are tools of other-oriented ways to find and keep a friend. Remind your tween that certain behaviors can scare potential friends away. A bad attitude, a tattle tale, the way our tween dress will send messages to others, Does your tween smile, and do they gossip or lie? Does your tween listen, look others in the eye or do they stare down at the floor or maybe keep head-phones plugged in their ears. Do they resent others for their differences or does your tween find a way to include others?

HELP YOUR TWEEN INCLUDE friends in family activities like a movie night or ice cream. A sleep-over is a great way for tween’s to show others their own home life. Let your tween know when YOU like one of their friends. “I like how (   ) asked you to play after school today.”  “It was nice of (  ) to help you clean up after you played video games together.”

POPULARITY IS NOT THE KEY to genuine and healthy friendships- the quality of the relationship is the key. We may or may not have been ‘popular’ and how ever that is the case can be a detriment to our influence in our tween’s healthy friendships. Best advice is to allow our tween’s God-given gifts and talents to help them find those quality friendships. Our support and direction are just that- but God has placed them on a bent that only He can grow within them.

ACTIVITIES in what our tween finds fun and interesting will help them find those good friends with the same interests. They will challenge one another’s trust and faithfulness as they work those 9 fruits of the Spirit into those activities. Encourage your tween to make friends with those of likeminded-ness as well as those that have other interests. Our adult world is a world of diversity and the sooner our tween experiences this, the easier adult life in college and career will be. Their friends do not need to come from one social group.

WE NEED TO BE GOOD LISTENERS as they share about their day. In fact a quiet tween is a red flag. Listen to their concerns and listen for changes in attitudes. Tween’s are naturally moody, dramatic and difficult, but when they exhibit a new behavior-trace where it came from. Active listening can head-off a wrong way-thinking on their part.

TOXIC FRIENDS need to be pointed out early. Tween’s need to be directed to know what is wrong and right in friends. What is a real friend we can ask them? We can role play with our child. A real friend is kind, encouraging, doesn’t lie, finds time for you. A bad friend will discourage, not think about your best interest but want to get you in trouble, bully you, gossip about you.

AND ALWAYS let our tween know that we are ‘there’ 24/7 for them and all that they are concerned with. How can we get them to believe this? Being transparent, open and honest with them about our own life shows them we are a person with real faults and victories. Let them discover what they share with us, stays with us and that we are true to our word. Our tween’s will soon be our teenagers- with God’s wisdom and direction their years will find them with good friends!

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